Topics: Data Analytics |

Tableau 101: Clicks

By: CoEnterprise | October 23, 2018

Tableau’s easy-to-use interface makes the user experience elegant through point and click actions. Hover your mouse cursor over a field to see a message. Click and drag a field to visualize data. When in doubt, right-click.

Different types of clicks can enable you to perform actions quickly and efficiently:

  • Connect to data tables in the Data Source page
  • Visualize data fields in the view
  • Build a scatter plot with measures aggregated to average instead of their defaults
  • Build a table calculation and create a duplicate elsewhere in the view

Clicks are critical to visualizing data in Tableau Desktop. This post will prepare you to use your mouse like a pro and build your viz with ease.

Level 100: How Do I Know Where to Click?

Clicks are convenient, but only if you know where to click. Tableau guides your actions through visual cues. In the image below, orange squares tell you where you can place a data field.



This visual cue shows you where you can drag a data field. Similar cues direct you where to place a data table in the Canvas, what you can click on when hovering over an area of the view, and even what will happen when you click or drop in a particular area of the view.

As you navigate a view, if you pay attention to these visual cues, they will show you where to go and what will happen. This is especially important as you begin to use some basic clicks to interact with your view.

Level 101: Basic Clicks to Engage

You can use basic clicks to select, move, engage, and get more options for elements of the view such as data fields, axes, labels, among others.

  1. Left-Click – Press the left mouse button to select an element.
  2. Left-Click-Drag – Press and hold the left mouse button to move an element.
  3. Right-Click – Press the right mouse button to see more options for an element.
  4. No-Click – Move the mouse cursor over an element to see any visual cues.

To play around with these clicks, imagine building out a simple view using some music data. The data set shown is Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All-time taken from

Our goal is to create a sorted list of artists by how many albums each artist has on Rolling Stone’s list.

To start, we need to visualize our measure. We want to see a count of albums, but Album is a dimension. We can fix that with a right-click, and then Convert to Measure.

  • Right-click on the Album field, then click Convert to Measure. The Album field will move to Measures.


  • Next, we can left-click and drag the Album measure to Rows. The measure will create a vertical bar. Now drag Artist to Columns.



Now we have a simple bar chart, but there are a few issues. We need to sort the view to see which artist has the most albums. We also need to flip the view so that we have a more easily readable horizontal bar chart. We can use both left-click and hover to do that.

  • Hover your mouse cursor over the Sort Descending button in the toolbar. This tells you how Tableau will sort your view.



Finally, we can use a simple left-click to sort our view, and another left-click to Swap Rows and Columns in the tool bar next to Sort Ascending.

  • Left-click the Sort Descending button.
  • Left-click the Swap Rows and Columns button located to the left of Sort Ascending.

You now have a horizontal bar chart, listing artists by count of unique albums.

  • Add a title by right-clicking the “Sheet 6” title and selecting Edit Title.
  • Change the title to “Count of Albums by Artist.”
  • Tableau will render the final view.



With a combination of basic click actions, including left-click, right-click, left-click-drag, and hover, we have built a basic view in Tableau. Based on our data, we can now see that Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones are tied for first in number of albums on the Top 500 list.

Level 201: Advanced Click Combinations to Engage Better

We’ve used some basic clicks to build a simple view. Now, we can get fancier (and more efficient) by using advanced clicks to build a slightly more sophisticated view.

In our next scenario, we will take the role of an analyst attempting to reduce product discounts and increase profitability. First, we need to see which product sub-categories have the highest discounts and lowest profitability. We will build a scatter plot to find our least profitable sub-category.

To build a scatter plot, we need to drag one measure to Rows and another to Columns, but the default aggregation for our measures is SUM. We could drag both to the view and then change them there, but that will take extra clicks. We could save some time by using a right-click drag to bring up the Drop Field menu to select how our fields are aggregated as soon as we place them in the view.

  • Move the mouse cursor to the Discount field
  • Click and hold the right mouse button while dragging Discount to Columns. Tableau will open a dialog box to choose your desired aggregation.
  • Click on AVG and click OK.



To finish your scatter plot, right-click and drag Profit to the opposite axis. Left-click and drag Sub-category to Detail. Add a Trend Line to illustrate the correlation.



To complete our scatter plot, we will format Profit as currency, and then use this field to color our marks. Now we’ve customized this instance of the Profit field. It will take several clicks to recreate it, if we drag a copy of the field in from the Data pane. A better approach is to simply duplicate the customized field and place the duplicate on Color.

To duplicate and move a field, hold down the CTRL key, then left-click-drag. This creates a duplicate of a field, which you can move to your desired location, all in one smooth motion.

  • Hold down the CTRL key and then left-click-drag AVG(Profit) to Color. The field will remain on Rows and also appear in Color.



We now have a scatter plot built in half the time it would take with standard mouse clicks. We can see that the Tables sub-category is the lowest in Profit by a wide margin. We can also see a negative correlation between Discount and Profit.

Right-click-drag has several other uses as well:

  • Switch between discrete and continuous dates and different date parts with one click
  • Convert a dimension to a measure simply by applying aggregation on the fly

Ctrl-click-drag also has several uses, some of which are only available using this click combination:

  • Duplicate a table calculation built in the view, eliminating the need to rebuild
  • Duplicate a field with special formatting only applied in the view


Tableau Desktop uses a point and click approach to ensure ease of use. Users who learn how to effectively use point and click combinations will be more efficient, and do more with less clicks. Less clicks mean less work and less time, which leads to a clearer flow of analysis and more rapid time to insight.

If this blog was helpful for your efficiency as an analyst, remember to check out this previous auto filter blog post. An auto filter can help you make more efficient use of space in your view.

Want to see how you can take your Tableau projects to the next level? Learn more about how our experts can help grow your skills today.

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